Hope and Courage in the Freezer

At the lake

I’m back from vacation- a wonderful two weeks unplugged at my parents’ cabin on a lake in New Hampshire- and I’m still basking in that post-vacation glow. I feel so rested that I finally felt up to making a phone call I’ve been avoiding for years. I called my fertility clinic.

I have two frozen embroys there from the 2010 vintage. That was not a good year, as those who have followed my story know.  

2010, the year of my first IVF cycle, started off with such promise. We had six beautiful embryos including the first 5AA embryos our nurse had ever seen. When the first two perfect embryos ended in a miscarriage at eight weeks, we were heartbroken, but still hopeful. “Just bad luck” was our official diagnosis. When the second two embryos ended in miscarriage, I thought my heart would be broken forever. My hope was gone. And after lots of tests, our diagnosis was again “Just bad luck.”

I couldn’t face the last two embryos from that doomed cycle. When I finally got the courage to try again- I wanted a fresh start and a fresh cycle. That cycle didn’t go well. By Day 5, our embroys were lagging, and none had yet reached the important blastocyst stage. On Day 6, we transferred the only two that made it. One of those is now our tenacious, beautiful little daughter. I’m still wonder-struck.

And yet the grief of those first two losses haunts me. Whenever Mr. T starts talking about going back for our last two embroys, I balk and change the subject.

But on Friday, I picked up the phone and called the clinic. There was a new receptionist there. I felt the familiar pang of anxiety as she took my message, promising me that the embryologist would call me back within a few days.

Five minutes later, the embryologist called me back. I recognized her voice as my favorite embryologist. The caretaker of my frozen “maybe-babies.” The super-hero who helped make my daughter possible.

I gave her my back story; “Remember me? I was the one with the great-looking embroys and multiple miscarriages…It’s been a few years, and I just thought I should check in on our last two embroys… are they still there? Have they been behaving? How do they look?”

I could hear her leafing though my file.

“Yes, you have two from that first cycle. It looks like all the embryos from that cycle had high grades-all about the same. The fact that you had a pregnancy- even if it ended in a miscarriage- is a good sign.”

(I’ve learned the professionals love to say this- as if miscarriage could be comfort.)

“I just keep thinking of these two as the ‘bottom of the barrel’ from a very bad crop,” I explained in my best bravado, my voice wavering with the emotion I was trying to keep in check. “I’m just wondering what you think their chances are…”

Her voice was warm, and I knew she was trying to comfort me, without promising anything (for we all know there’s no guarantee in this business.)

“Well, our freezing process has changed in the past two years since yours were frozen, so our success rates with frozen transfers are higher now than they were with the old process. But the fact that your frozen transfer resulted in a pregnancy, though a miscarriage, is a good sign.” She said it again. I knew she meant well, but fact that my “maybe-babies” were sitting around with the outdated freezing process was unsettling.

“We could do PDG to test them, but since you only have two and it’s expensive, it might not be worthwhile…” she explained, trying to give me the feeling that I had options.

I thanked her for the information, and said that I knew I just had to get up the courage to give those two a try. Someday.

I’m still not sure when I’ll be ready. Whenever I think about potential dates, I find myself thinking “Would that be a good time to have a miscarriage?” I’ve already had a summer miscarriage. That was not a good time. My cousin’s wedding in September? Not a good time. Thanksgiving? Not a good time. Christmas? I’ve done that too- and take it from me- that’s the absolute worst time. Of course, the answer is that there’s never a good time to have a miscarriage.

But tonight we drove by the “Fertility Tower” as I call my clinic, a tall building on the waterfront. I can’t pass by without being so grateful and amazed that our daughter began there- and wonder if she has a sibling or two- who should be older than her by now, frozen and waiting for me to be brave.

So for now, I’ll keep looking for my own “infertility twin” and hope I find my courage eventually.

I will be sharing some more happy-ending infertility adventure stories here soon- let me know if you have a story to share to spark hope for others. Even though it can be scary to hold onto it, I still believe that hope that makes the world go round.

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